The Nextivity Cel Fi Pro Signal Booster for AT&T updated the older Cel Fi Smart Signal Booster we reviewed earlier. The system promises to boost an AT&T LTE signal in a home, office or business with two units that extend the coverage in places where an AT&T signal normally doesn’t get the job done due to poor coverage. The company promises, “All you need is one bar to get five.”
Does this updated version, now supporting AT&T LTE service, boost a signal enough to make it worth the $695? And can a single bar from AT&T produce 5 bars in another part of a building?
The Cel Fi Pro Signal Booster ($695) comes with two units that install with little effort, unless someone needs to physically mount them. Then it’s just a matter of measuring, drilling some holes and attaching the included brackets to hang the units. All you need to do is plug in each unit in the right strategic location and they do most of the work. The included brackets let users mount the two units on a wall, or from a ceiling, to provide the best possible coverage.
The Network Unit belongs somewhere in a home or office where there’s at least one bar of an AT&T signal. In our test, that’s really all a user needs in order to extend their signal, but it won’t make things faster than the speeds a customer normally gets from a signal measuring only one bar. It will extend that slow speed to parts of the building where there’s no coverage.
Start by finding the strongest signal inside the building using an AT&T phone and then plug the Network Unit in near that spot. Once the unit boots, it will connect to AT&T’s network. Cel Fi will configure it to work.
Once the person plugs in the unit it boots up in a couple of minutes and begins searching for the Coverage Unit, the second of the two units.
Look for a good place to put the Coverage Unit using an AT&T phone again. Wait till the AT&T signal drops to its lowest point in the building. That’s the best place for the Coverage Unit, so long as it sits far enough away from the Network Unit, but not too far to receive the Network Unit’s signal. Plug the Coverage Unit in and test it out before permanently mounting it.
The company recommends testing the Coverage Unit out in a few different locations until it produces the best extended signal. Use the Coverage Unit screen to find that spot. Placing it too close to the Network Unit will result in a poor signal. The same holds true for placing it too far away. Once the Coverage Unit shows a good signal (the number of bars above the right sight icon on the screen) install it. If necessary use the mounting brackets included in the box, or just place it in an unobtrusive spot that gets a strong signal.
Test the signal with a phone in the area where the Coverage Unit sits. It should offer a strong enough 4G LTE signal to use the smartphone or tablet with acceptable speeds, or at least better speeds than without the system installed.
Speeds through the Cel Fi Pro Signal Booster won’t wow anyone and they show inconsistent results. The above comes from a pair of speed tests taken while connected to the Cel Fi Pro Signal Booster. The first test (on bottom) only gave us 2.73Mpbs download speed and a faster 6.82Mbps upload speed. The second test (on top) ran faster at 7.92Mbps up and 5.60Mbps down. During both speed tests the meter jumped up and down, showing an inconsistent signal.
Despite the inconsistent test results, the Cel Fi Pro Signal Booster extended an AT&T LTE signal to a spot at the test site where there’s usually no signal, or only one bar of LTE at best.
Value and Recommendation
For the average home user, the Nextivity Cel Fi Pro Signal Booster for AT&T costs too much to make it worth the $695. Most wireless carrier will give customers a signal booster, like the AT&T Micro Cell, which connects to the customer’s Internet connection via their home router. Those units can slow down the home or business broadband connection, as we found out in a previous review.
Businesses users that need a solid LTE Internet connection in their office or factory where there’s not an adequate AT&T signal, will consider $695 a worthwhile cost to keep workers productive despite a bad signal. Users who don’t want to pay that price, or can’t afford it, can opt for a good Cable or DSL Internet service supplemented by a good Wi-Fi network. If they need to make phone calls but can’t get a signal, they can forward their AT&T phone to a VOIP service, like Google Voice, and talk over the Internet via Wi-Fi. Some businesses, however, need a more professional service. That’s the target customer for the Cel Fi Pro Signal Booster for AT&T. Those customers can buy the Cel Fi Pro Signal Booster with confidence, knowing that it does what it claims.